Insect pressures are one of the most difficult problems facing farmers, especially those trying to farm sustainably or farm organically. Tremendous inputs of insecticides are the standard therapy and even this approach leaves much to be desired in the outcome. Enhancement of beneficial insect populations by providing insect habitat is an environmentally friendly activity. This farmer, who is committed to using organic methods, is always seeking better ways to control insect pests without chemical applications. Beneficial insects provide an excellent means of reducing damage without costly and potentially dangerous application of insecticides.
The goal of my project was to develop techniques to install riparian strips of native coastal prairie vegetation as an attraction for beneficial insects. I hoped to demonstrate a measurable and economically viable role for native vegetation as habitat for diverse populations of beneficial insects.
But, as I got into my project I began to understand the complexity of the problem and the shortcomings of my approach. As if that weren’t enough, extreme variations in the weather during the project years made it difficult to have a viable crop in the experiment.
Dr. Bugg had alerted me to the difficulty of trapping and identifying insects and he was absolutely correct. I had hoped then that I could photograph the insects and use the photos in identification. But I found that it was difficult to get a good enough photograph to allow identification.
Lastly, a serious error was to locate my control plot on my organic farm. There were not sufficient differences in the habitat between the treatments and the control plot. I may not have learned what to do but have significantly increased my knowledge of things that don’t work in this type of study.